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Oliver Twist

by ArrDee

One of my very favourite UK artists is The Streets, and especially his pioneering first two records Original Pirate Material and A Grand Don’t Come For Free. He sounded like nothing else at the time, both in the madcap inventiveness of his beat-making and arrangement, and in the seemingly effortless geezer-rap acrobatics he spun over the top, both reflecting and satirising early-2000s urban England with a unique kind of scabby nobility. Needless to say, I’ve been waiting a long time for someone to bring that kind of character back to the UK charts again.

And, if this single is anything to go by, I might finally be in luck! For a start, the beat is wonderfully unpredictable, with its weird semi-swung hats, sporadic half-time kick-and-snare pattern, and time-compressed violin riff. But then the rap is top-notch too. Partly it’s the confidence he has to leave occasional breaks in the flow (such as on “health” at 1:02, “in the world” at 1:09, and “screaming” at 1:49), providing some respite for the listener and enabling the shift to new phrasing patterns. But it’s also what I like to call the ‘melody’ he brings to his performance – in other words, the expressive pitch range he uses to give his rapping style and momentum. Of course, the main hook “I just wanted some more / Oliver Twist” is a prime example, but notice also the contrast between the high-point on “risks” (0:22) and the low point on “piss” (0:24), as well as the arch-like contour of “I used to think I’m just dreaming” (0:31). We’re so used to rappers these days rapping along on a monotone thinking it makes them sound moody, so it’s a breath of fresh air to hear someone taking such full advantage of the expressive power of natural speech phrasing. I’ll be watching ArrDee’s progress with great interest…